Thursday, December 17, 2015

Preterist Creed -- Then and Now

While preterists have been fond of saying that they "have no creed but Christ" which is their latent denominational church of Christ influence (source), or accusing Christians of being "creedalists"; the FACT remains that creed simply means "belief". Whenever someone articulates their beliefs, it is a creed -- not just in religion but in any ideology.

In 2001, a group of vocal preterists signed on to such a creedal document called the 9.5 Theses for the Next Reformation. (source) The original signatories to the document included men like:

  • Ed Stevens
  • Don Preston
  • David Curtis
  • William Bell
  • John Noe

That document didn't really make much of an impact in the early days of the preterist movement and many preterists today are probably unaware of its existence. It has been a long standing desire to get the various preterist factions on the same page. In a renewed attempt, a group of preterists part of a Facebook group called Genuine Preterism has once again articulated the basics of preterism -- a creed if you will.  Below I show these creeds side by side.

9.5 Theses
Genuine Preterism
We the undersigned, out of love for the truth and a desire to see all Christians honor and acknowledge all that God has revealed in his Word, submit these 9.5 Theses for your prayerful evaluation and participation with us in calling for further reform. May these theses be the spark that ignites the next Reformation of Christianity.
1. Everything Jesus said would happen, happened exactly as and when He said it would—within the lifetime of his contemporaries.
2. Everything every New Testament writer expected to happen, happened exactly as and when they expected it would—within their lifetime—as they were guided into all truth and told the things that were to come by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).
3. Scholars across a broad spectrum are in general agreement that this is exactly how every NT writer and the early Church understood Jesus’ words. If they were wrong on something this important, how can we trust them to have conveyed other aspects of the faith accurately, such as the requirements for salvation?
4. No inspired NT writer, writing twenty or more years later, ever corrected their Holy-Spirit-guided understanding and fulfillment expectations (Jn. 16:13). Neither should we. Instead, they intensified their language as the “appointed time of the end” (Dan. 12:4; Hab. 2:3) drew near—from Jesus’ “this generation” (Mat. 24:34), to Peter’s “the end of all things is at hand” and “for it is time for judgment to begin” (1 Pet. 4:7, 17), and John’s “this is the last hour . . . . it is the last hour” (1 Jn. 2:18).
5. Partial fulfillment is not satisfactory. 3 out of 5, 7 out of 10, etc., won’t work. Partial does not pass the test of a true prophet (Deut. 18:18-22). Again, Jesus time-restricted all of his end-time predictions to occur within the 1st-century time frame.
6. God is faithful (2 Pet. 3:9) and “not a man that he should lie” (Num. 23:19). Faithfulness means not only doing what was promised, but also doing it when it was promised.
7. 1st-century, fulfillment expectations were the correct ones and everything happened, right on time—no gaps, no gimmicks, no interruptions, no postponements, no delays, no exegetical gymnastics, and no changing the meaning of commonly used and normally understood words. Such manipulative devices have only given liberals and skeptics a foothold to discredit Christ’s Deity and the inerrancy of Scripture.
8. What needs adjusting is our understanding of both the time and nature of fulfillment, and not manipulation of the time factor to conform to our popular, futuristic, and delay expectations.
9. The kingdom of God was the central teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a present but greatly under-realized reality, and must again become the central teaching of his Church.
9.5. We have been guilty of proclaiming a half-truth—a partially delivered faith to the world and to fellow Christians. We must repent and earnestly “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). If Christianity has been as effective as it has by proclaiming that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, came, died for our sins, bodily arose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven “at just the right time” (Rom. 5:6; Dan. 9:24-27), how much more effective might it be if we started preaching, teaching, and practicing the whole truth—i.e., a faith in which everything else also happened “at just the right time,” exactly as and when Jesus said it would and every NT writer expected (Jn. 16:13). Dare we continue to settle for less?
Surely today, the words of Martin Luther, as he stood in defense before the Diet of Worms in 1521, are still applicable and compelling for the "always reforming" Church:
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures . . . and my conscience is captive to the Word of God . . . . I cannot do otherwise. "

* Based on Martin Luther’s famous “95 Theses” that were posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. Luther’s document empowered and propelled the Protestant Reformation.
Preterism is a strong movement made up of many levels of experienced individuals with various backgrounds and degrees. It should be made known publicly that Preterism is not a one trick pony owned by a single view. Preterism as a whole is made up of some simple tenets that are required to be believed on to make one a Preterist:
1) All scriptures have been fulfilled by AD 70.

2) The Second Coming of Christ has already happened in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and will not happen again in our future.

3) The resurrection of the dead has already taken place.

4) The gathering of the living and the dead into the New Jerusalem has already taken place.
Based on these 4 points, the following views have been created:

  • Covenant Eschatology
  • Israel Only
  • Fulfilled Revelation Theology
  • Essential Body view
  • Universalism
  • Temporary Ekklesia
  • Pantelism
With this point made, it should be brought to the attention of all Preterists that Preterist on Preterist persecution should be avoided at all costs. Preterism is in development to this day. As such, working together to figure out the Bible in unity will promote the truth of fulfilled eschatology.

GENUINE PRETERISM would like to hit this issue head on by promoting censorship-free groups. This means that instead of kicking members out of groups for ideas and information the admins or members do not like, these ideas should be discussed and analyzed for truth and angles no one had considered before. You could always ignore them as well. Truth is singular, and every view listed above believes it has a portion or all of it figured out. Debates and discussions therefore should be promoted across the groups to determine Biblical truth.

The important points to take away from this article are:

  1. Preterism, despite its protestations, does attempt to creedalize. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is natural.
  2. Preterism originally was so radical, it claimed EVERYTHING Jesus said would happen, happened before or at AD70.
  3. Preterism originally implied that people shouldn't or couldn't trust historical Christian interpretation.
  4. Preterism originally claimed Christianity has been presenting half-truth.
  5. Preterism now acknowledges that the 4 points upon which ALL historical Christianity, across all denominations have been the most united, are the exact same 4 points which preterists deny.
  6. Preterism now is still trying to "figure out the Bible".

I am not saying these things to be pejorative or demeaning toward preterists. I still have friends in the movement. I am saying these things to show how far preterism has moved. It originally attempted to identify with historical Christianity, as sort of an add-on, but preterism has now come full fledge in realizing and presenting itself as something other than historical Christianity. Preterism has unshackled itself from the former "futurists turned preterist pastors" and become a truly "laymen-led" movement where the individual preterist is no longer squelched. They now boldly proclaim that they aren't merely trying to be little Martin Luthers ushering in the Next Reformation, but rather going beyond the supposed timidness of the Reformers.

Today's Preterists seek to unpack every box, tear down every divide and open every door until all is exposed and then they want to unify around that.

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